By Constaincia Uruakpa
Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna, Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso has urged Catholics to pray for the conversion of the killers of Fr. Alphonsus Bello, the priest who was murdered by unknown assailants on May 21, 2021. Archbishop Ndagoso made the appeal on Tuesday, while delivering his homily, at the Funeral Mass held for the late Fr. Bello, at Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church, Kaduna State. According to Archbishop Ndagoso “We are here to pray for the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.” He added: “Pray that God will give the victims of these criminal activities and their loved ones the grace to forgive, so that they do not become victims twice.” Archbishop Ndagoso also called on members of the congregation to forgive the perpetrators. “Painful as it is, if we are not to remain victims forever, we have to take the right step moving forward, namely; forgive those who have done this to us, even if we do not know them,” he said. Archbishop Ndagoso emphasized the need to seek “justice and fair play for all.”
He added that those who practice forgiveness become “true disciples of our Master who did not only pray for the forgiveness of his executioners, but also made excuses for them”, he said. He further urged the faithful to pray for the killers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. “The murderer(s) of Fr. Alphonsus and many others like them do not know what they do.” The Archbishop said that one cannot talk about genuine forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace without first of all working for justice and fair play for all. Archbishop Ndagoso decried the unequal treatment of citizens due to unwarranted sentiments. “A situation where equal citizens are treated unequally because of ethnic, religious, political and social affiliation does not augur well for peace and peaceful co-existence”, he said. The Archbishop noted that priests in the country live in challenging and frightening times. “We pastoral agents are subjected to all kinds of hardship but never distressed.
We see no way out, but never despair. We are pursued, but never cut off. We are knocked down, but still have some life in us. We carry with us in our body, the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus too may be visible in our body”, he said. Addressing the clergy, he said: “Be sure of this, the God who called us, and entrusted His work to us, is with us because He is Emmanuel. And this is his assurance to each of us.” He called on Nigeria’s security forces to wake up from their slumbers and go after religious fanatics, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, AK-47-wielding herders and opportunists who are criminals in every sense of the word, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians regardless of religion, ethnicity and political leanings. While urging government to invest in the country’s security personnel, Archbishop Ndagoso, commended security officers, who often put their lives on the line to defend Nigerians, adding that without them, the situation would have been worse.
“There is always room for improvement. Our security agents need to work harder, especially in the area of intelligence-gathering, sharing, and surveillance. “Government should of necessity invest more in this area by adequately equipping them and take good care of their essential needs to motivate them,” he said, noting that citizens required better security to take advantage of the country’s infrastructure. These infrastructure can only be useful when there is peace and security, enabling free and secure movements”, he submitted. The Archbishop further stated: “The protection of human life and security of property are of paramount importance to the country today more than anything else.” Meanwhile, during the Vigil Mass held for Fr. Bello on May 31, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, faulted the Nigerian government for laxity in ensuring security for citizens. Fr. Bello was found dead, the morning after his parish, St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in the Diocese of Sokoto, was attacked by armed bandits. He was 33. He was kidnapped along with another priest, Fr. Joe Keke, who remains missing